Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Koran scholars wanted for elite anti-terror squad

This is interesting:

When Judge Hamoud al-Hitar announced that he and four other Islamic scholars would challenge Yemen’s Al Qaeda prisoners to a theological contest, Western antiterrorism experts warned that this high-stakes gamble would end in disaster.

Nervous as he faced five captured, yet defiant, Al Qaeda members in a Sanaa prison, Judge Hitar was inclined to agree. But banishing his doubts, the youthful cleric threw down the gauntlet, in the hope of bringing peace to his troubled homeland.

If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, then we will join you in your struggle," Hitar told the militants. "But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence."

The prisoners eagerly agreed.

Now, two years later, not only have those prisoners been released, but a relative peace reigns in Yemen. And the same Western experts who doubted this experiment are courting Hitar, eager to hear how his "theological dialogues" with captured Islamic militants have helped pacify this wild and mountainous country, previously seen by the US as a failed state, like Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Since December 2002, when the first round of the dialogues ended, there have been no terrorist attacks here, even though many people thought that Yemen would become terror’s capital," says Hitar, eyes glinting shrewdly from beneath his emerald-green turban. "Three hundred and sixty-four young men have been released after going through the dialogues and none of these have left Yemen to fight anywhere else."

Of course, you have to catch ’em first.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip:
Jeremy Lott at Get Religion.

Discussions - 4 Comments

This is extremely intersting. Does this say anything about the way we are fighting our "anti-terror" war? I think it says something ...

Not only do you have to catch ’em first, but those who would challenge the terrorists intellectually and theologically have to feel secure against reprisals. In other words, soft power of this sort doesn’t work without substantial military support. It is a front in the GWOT, but certainly not the only or necessarily the best way of waging it.

But since I’m not Juan Cole, I guess I’m not entitled to an opinion.

I think the success which the Yemenis have found with this method employed -- granted, among other methods -- merits some kind of an effort on the part of the U.S. to incorporate similar measures.

I can’t say how relevant this is, but most Yemenis are historically Zaidis (Zaid is part of the name of the figure who is their inspiration, kind of like Wahabis are called by other after Abdel Wahab, though Wahabis do not call themselves that but simply "Muslims"--as they believe they’re the only true ones).

I’ve heard that Zaidis consider themselves not exactly Sunni but also not Shi’a either--whether this has made Yemenis relatively resistant to Wahabi or Iranian influence, I can’t say, but I suspect it might have an effect.

Yemen still has a dictatorial regime (run by a president for life) and also much lawlessness outside the social and geographical areas that the regime most cares about controlling, but it may be the case that the disorders there are not as directly tied to religion as they are in some of the other MidEastern lands. They still have jihadism in Yemen, of course, as this article indicates, but it may not be as much a "built-in" part of the state as it is in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, for instance, where the respective powers-that-be have been doing various kinds of devil’s dances w/ jihadists of the nastiest sort for years now.

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